In the late sixties there were far worse things for a an aspiring rock band than to tour with, and have their debut album produced by, Jimi Hendrix. While such an association was not an immediate passport to fame and fortune, it certainly helped. Such was the case with the wonderfuf/y named Cat Mother and the All Might Newsboys.
Despite a later move to, and many years close association with, rural northern California, Cat Mother were originally a New York City band and evolved out of the Greenwich village folk community. While none of the founding members made a huge impact in their folk days, banjo player Charlie Chin had been a fixture on the basket club circuit for several years and was respected as one of the best pickers around. Of the other original members, Roy Michaels was the only one with a local reputation—he'd been part of the Au Go Go Singers, along with Steve Stills ana Richie Furay.
The Au Go Go Singers split up in mid 1965, just at the time that the Village was experiencing a renaissance. Many previously acoustic folk and blues musicians formed electric bands and the Village clubs rang to the folk rock of the Lovin' Spoonful and The Youngbloods and the soupcd-up blues of the Blues Project. Despite the changes not much happened for Michaels, who carried on as a solo performer, although on occasion he teamed up with future Cat Mother members Bob Smith ancf Michael Esquine, who performed as an acoustic trio.
In early 1967 Michaels and Smith visited California and immediately fell in love with the San Francisco scene. They stayed long enough to attend the Monterey Pop festival, an event that convinced them that not only was rock ana roll the way to go, but also that they should move west permanently. Despite Michaels' and Smith's desire to move to California, things didn't quite work out that way—at least for the time being. Once back in New York, they teamed up with Equine and Chin along with another old friend, Larry Packer.
At the risk of mixing metaphors. Cat Mother was born. Michaels played bass and guitar, Equine played drums. Packer played lead guitar, violin and mandolin, Smith played keyboards and occasional drums and Chin played rhythm guitar ana banjo. All of them sang. The band rehearsed for six months and lived, more or less communally, on East Tenth Street, in the heart of the lower east side. In due course they became the local hip community's favorite band, playing at numerous benefits and at the series of free concerts in Tompkins Square Park.
By the fall of 1968 they had come to the attention of Michael Jcffery, Hendrix's manager, who signed them to his company and got them a deal with Polydor, who were about to launch tne label m the States. November saw them touring with the Experience, a remarkable piece of good fortune which continued when, during the New York portion of the tour, Hendrix produced their debut album at Manhattan's Record Plant. He was aided by two of his favorite engineers, Gary Kellgren and Tony Bongiovi.
The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Aivay is a wonderful, eclectic record—a mix of hard driving rock and roll, a dash of funk, some folk-based material and overtones of near eastern music that draw comparison with LA's finest. The Kaleidoscope. The release of the album was delayed until June 1969, when it became Polydor's first US release. A single from the album, "Good Old Rock and Roll," (a medley of several late fifties rock classics, linked by new verses written by the band) became a surprise, but well-deserved hit, peaking at number 21. Fueled by the single's success, the album itself reached 55, a more than creditable showing.
Despite their local New York success, city life was becoming too much for-Cat Mother. In the Spring of 1970, the whole band except Chin, moved to the rural splendor of Mendocino, north of San Francisco, and took over a huge farm house that became their base of operations for several years. Almost immediately they dropped their All Night Newsboys suffix and their music changed as well. The hard rock of the first album disappeared, and future records featured a more relaxed country sound that suited the time and place. Whether the subsequent albums (Albion Doowah, 1970; Cat Mother, 1972; Last Chance Dance, 1973) were as good as the first is debatable; what is true is that the band never repeated the commercial success of The Street Giveth ..., which remains a minor classic of the era.
by John Platt 1997
1. Good Old Rock N Roll - 3:05
2. Favors - 3:25
3. Charlie's Waltz (Charlie Chin) - 3:39
4. How I Spent My Summer (Robert Smith) - 3:50
5. Marie (Robert Smith, Charlie Chin, Larry Packer) - 3:34
6. Probably Won't (Robert Smith) - 4:47
7. Can You Dance To It? (Robert Smith) - 4:54
8. Bramble Bush (Roy Michaels) - 5:00
9. Bad News (Charlie Chin, Michael Equine) - 3:09
10.Boston Burglar - 3:42
11.Track In 'A' (Nebraska Nights) - 9:35
Songs written by Bob Smith, Charlie Chin, Larry Packer, Michael Equine, Roy Michaels except where noted
*Roy Michaels - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*Michael Equine - Drums, Guitar, Vocals
*Bob Smith - Electric Piano, Organ, Drums, Vocals
*Larry Packer - Lead Guitar , Violin, Mandolin, Vocals
*Charlie Chin - Rhythm Guitar, Banjo, Vocals
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